Deputies were called to the Felton Farm Road residence Thursday afternoon to assist paramedics with an unresponsive teen. The boy's father told deputies he had tied the teen to a tree outside the home Tuesday night because he was being disobedient and other disciplinary actions had failed.
The father said he untied the boy Wednesday morning and allowed him back into the house, but he was tied to the tree a second time that night when he started acting up again. The boy remained tied up until his stepmother found him unconscious at about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, authorities said.
The father was performing CPR on the teen when paramedics arrived at the house, said John Dwight Jefferson, of the Pinetops Rescue Squad.
The teen, who was identified as Tyler Gene McMillan, was in cardiac arrest and was taken to Heritage Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Jefferson said.
"People are people. When it happens, you still always ask the same question – why?" Jefferson said.
Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight said the boy's wrists and ankles were bound with plastic ties and that he was also tied to the tree with some other material. Although a rope was seen dangling from a tree in the yard outside the house Friday, he wouldn't confirm whether that was used to tie the boy.
Investigators found bruises on the boy's wrists and ankles, Knight said, declining to comment on whether other marks were found on his body.
A 7-year-old and a 9-year-old who live in the McMillan home have been placed in the custody of the Department of Social Services, authorities said.
Tyler McMillan's mother, Michelle "Mickey" Sasser McMillan, died of cancer several years ago.
Carolyn Pollard, who lives across the road from the McMillans, said the family moved to the area about three months ago from Florida. The children were homeschooled, and the family kept to themselves, she said.
"I was devastated. I did not believe that had taken place," Pollard said. "I never did see any kind of abuse, and that's why I'm shocked with it."
The McMillans first court appearance is scheduled for Monday.